Cash Flow: The Biggest Wellness Investments Of 2019

In 2019, we saw the global wellness industry soar to a value of $4.5 trillion (GWI), a figure that was bolstered by a steady stream of mergers, acquisitions and investments.

Helping to fuel innovation, global expansion and more mass-market adoption than ever before, these cash injections also highlight high-growth categories, such as plant-based alternatives, femtech and at-home fitness, which are changing the way consumers engage with wellness.

From plant-based chicken nuggets and personalised nutrition to non-alcoholic drinks and period-proof underwear; here we’ve curated some of the most significant and influential investments of 2019 and how that capital is shaping the trajectory of the wellness industry.

January: Supplements + Lifestyle Memberships

Hims: $100M
Starting the year off strong, men’s wellness brand Hims — which aims to address problems including male pattern baldness, erectile dysfunction and acne — raised $100 million in venture capital funding on a pre-money valuation of $1 billion.

Founder Andrew Dudum, later told Welltodo that his vision is to now grow both Hims and Hers into a 10-20 billion dollar business over the next few years. Read More

FabFitFun: $80M
Elsewhere, wellness lifestyle membership and subscription commerce company FabFitFun announced that it has raised $80 million in Series A funding led by Kleiner Perkins, with participation from existing investors NEA and Upfront Ventures. 

At the time, the nine-year-old business said the financing would be used to expand the offerings of the FabFitFun membership, evolve the platform as a marketing partner and launchpad for brands, and fuel the company’s continued global expansion. Read More

Notable mentions:
British startup Manual closed a £5 million funding round with participation from Felix Capital, Cherry Ventures and Cassius Capital. Like Hims, the men’s wellness platform is tackling men’s health and wellness taboos within the rapidly growing DTC market.

February: Meditation + Athleisure

Hydrow: $20M
With 2019 firmly underway, at-home fitness concept Hydrow was the first of many at-home fitness concepts to secure significant investment following a $20 million funding round.

The investment, which came from L Catterton’s Growth Fund, was earmarked to support the startup in bringing its connected fitness rower to consumers across the US, and fuel its mission of becoming the ‘Peloton of rowing’. Read More

Calm: $88M
Calm, meanwhile, joined Hims in the unicorn club after the close of an $88 million Series B financing round led by TPG Growth.

“We started as a meditation app, but have grown far beyond that. Our vision is to build one of the most valuable and meaningful brands of the 21st century. Health and wellness is a $4 trillion industry and we believe there is a big opportunity to build the leading company in this fast-growing and important space,” said founder Michael Acton Smith at the time.

Notable mentions:
Subscription-based supplement brand Ritual announced a $25 million Series B funding round with participation from Norwest Venture Partners, Forerunner Ventures and Founders Fund. As a science-first company, Ritual said it would be using some of the new capital to invest in testing and research — kicking off a large, independent clinical human study on effects of its vitamin at a top US university.

Also in the US, activewear retailer Bandier raised $34.4 million to support its next stage of growth. Jill Granoff, CEO of Eurazeo Brands — the lead investor, said: “Bandier is at the forefront of the activewear movement and is well-positioned to gain meaningful market share in this fast-growing sector. By leveraging our respective capabilities, we will drive product and digital expansion and become the destination for luxury activewear globally.”

March: Boutique Fitness + Sleep

F45: Undisclosed
In March, global fitness franchise F45 announced that an investment group, led by Mark Wahlberg and FOD Capital, would become a strategic investor through a minority stake in the company.

The deal, which reportedly valued the business at $450 million, further bolstered its large-scale international expansion over the following months.

Rob Deutsch, Founder and CEO, described the news as “monumental”, saying “when we started the company, we knew we had something special and had bold plans to create a global fitness movement.” Read More

Casper: $100M
DTC mattress startup Casper also made news by securing a $100 million Series D investment from existing investors Target, NEA, IVP and Norwest Venture Partners.

The brand, which expects revenues of $556 million this year, currently has plans to open more physical stores and diversify its product line, as it strengthens its grip on the $70 billion sleep industry.

Notable mentions:
Sportswear retailer WIT Fitness secured £2 million from growth capital investor VGC Partners. The London-based sports-retailer said the investment would be used to take the concept to New York, Paris, Barcelona and LA.

Wellness Industry's Biggest Investments of 2019
Image: Elvie

April: Femtech + At-Home Fitness

Elvie: $42M
Pioneering femtech startup Elvie secured a $42 million investment in April, putting the burgeoning subsector on track to raise $1bn in funding by the end of the year. Listen to Co-Founder Tania Boler on the Welltodo Podcast.

The round of financing, led by IPGL, the former Conservative Party treasurer Michael Spencer’s investment firm, and supported by Octopus Ventures and Impact Ventures UK, raised the brand’s total funding to date, to $53.8 million.

Speaking about the femtech market, Michael Spencer explained: “The female-health sector has historically been underserved by technology and there are very few companies addressing women’s health challenges. Women’s health and wellness should not be a niche market and Elvie is pioneering smarter technology for women with a mission to improve women’s health outcomes globally.” Read More 

OLLY Nutrition: Undisclosed
Unilever announced that it has signed an agreement to acquire OLLY Nutrition, a premium supplement brand. The US company now sits in the Unilever portfolio, alongside the likes of Pukka Herbs, Ren Skincare and Graze; further demonstrating the conglomerate’s focus on wellness.

Since launch, Olly has carved out a niche thanks to its accessible design and mainstream retail partnerships with Target, Walmart and CVS. The B Corp’s mission of making nutrition easy has seen the company expand its initial gummy line to include bars and probiotic quick-melt sticks — and the strategy seems to be working, with the brand exceeding $100 million in annual revenue, according to recent reports. Read More

Notable mentions:
Tonal, another disruptive at-home fitness concept raised $45 million in a Series C round led by the Growth Fund of L Catterton. The fundraising also included new participation from Evolution Media (which has invested in MasterClass, Calm, The Athletic) and support from existing investors Shasta Ventures (which has invested in Nest), Mayfield (which has invested in Lyft, Classpass, Poshmark), Sapphire Ventures (which has invested in 23andMe, Fitbit, LinkedIn, Square), Serena Williams via Serena Ventures, and more. 

“As the fitness landscape continues to evolve, we have seen a clear shift toward personalized, content-driven, at-home workout experiences,” said Scott Dahnke, Global Co-CEO of L Catterton. “Tonal is the first connected fitness brand focused on strength training and represents an opportunity to invest behind an innovative concept with tremendous growth potential.”

May: Meat Alternatives + Digital Wellness

Impossible Foods: $300M
In May, plant-based burger brand Impossible Foods raised $300 million, taking the Silicon Valley-based startup’s total raised to more than $750 million.

The funding highlighted continued growth of the plant-based category, in a year that saw new entrants, innovation and investment reach fever pitch. Since then investors have been clamouring to get a piece of the startup before it goes public, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Urban: $10M
In a Series B funding round led by Accelerated Digital Ventures, with participation from Passion Capital and Felix Capital, on-demand wellness treatment app Urban raised $10 million. Listen to Co-Founder, Jack Tang on the Welltodo Podcast.

Since then, the startup has expanded its offering to include on-demand physiotherapy, and is soon to launch personal training. 

Speaking at the Welltodo Founder Series earlier this year, co-founder Jack Tang explained: “To truly realise our philosophy of enabling people to live happier and healthier lives — acknowledging the fact that wellness can be really different for everyone — we wanted to provide the same seamless experience across three major categories – physical wellbeing, body confidence and fitness.”

He added: “Our customers wanted more from Urban, so that’s really driven our roadmap.”

Notable mentions:
Canopy Growth Corp, a Canadian cannabis firm which sells medicinal and recreational cannabis products acquired British beauty brand This Works for £43 million. The new focus on CBD will support the brand in its next stage of growth, especially in the US where the CBD market is predicted to reach $20 billion By 2024.

Elsewhere, Daye, which makes female health products including cramp-fighting tampons infused with CBD, also secured $5.5 million.

Wellness Industry's Biggest Investments of 2019
Image: Ten Health & Fitness

June: Boutique Fitness + Workplace Wellness

Gympass: $300M
Midway through the year, Brazilian startup Gympass raised $300 million to fuel its bid to make gym workouts more accessible for corporate employees. The company, which launched in 2012, said it planned to use the capital to expand into Asia, as well as growing in the 14 countries where it already operated.

The firm, which is now valued at more than $1 billion, also said it would explore developing AI to enhance its platform.

Ten Health & Fitness: £4M
London-based boutique fitness operator Ten Health & Fitness also secured £4 million in funding from Foresight Group to roll out additional locations across Greater London, with plans to double the business within three years. 

Speaking about the investment, founder Joanne Matthews explained: “Our mission has always been ‘to bring more Ten-ness to more people in more places’, and we’re really excited about being able to drive the pace of growth in line with our ambitions.”

The twelve-year-old company, one of the pioneers of the boutique model in London, bridges the gap between the world of fitness and the medical sector.  By integrating a collaborative approach between trainers and therapists into its model, the brand has managed to carve out a niche for itself within an increasingly competitive market — and it’s a strategy that has caught the attention of investors. Read More

Notable mentions:
Alma, a New York-based co-practicing community of therapists, coaches, and wellness professionals, raised $8 million in Series A funding,

Hero, a British digital wellbeing platform servicing individuals, organisations and communities also raised £1.3 million to support the integration of workplace wellness and unlock new opportunities in the $48 billion global market. The Leeds-based business, which launched in April 2018 said it would use the funds to unlock new opportunities in the industry.

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July: Supplements + Natural Beauty

The Nue Co.
In July, premium supplement brand The Nue Co. raised $9 million in funding to help scale its offering and drive personalisation. Listen to Founder, Jules Miller on the Welltodo Podcast.

The brand said it would use the funding to double down on data-capture to better understand its customers and offer more effective recommendations, as the future of health and wellness continues to point towards a more personalised approach.

Distinct from most direct-to-consumer brands, which tend to prioritise tech over product, the three-year-old startup’s product-led approach has already helped to address the two largest pain points in the supplement industry: retention and brand loyalty — it currently boasts a repeat purchase rate of over 3x the average in the luxury beauty market. Read More

Kopari Beauty
In the beauty world, premium coconut brand Kopari Beauty closed a $20 million funding round to strengthen product innovation and drive international expansion.

Partners including L Catterton and Unilever Ventures, which previously invested in Kopari in January 2017, participated in the round. Their continued investment demonstrated the growth opportunity that experts see as existing within both the coconut oil and natural beauty categories.

Personal care has become the brand’s fastest-growing category, with deodorant a top-selling product. Today, its products are stocked in more than 1,800 brick-and-mortar stores across the US, Canada, Southeast Asia and Australia, in retailers including Sephora, Ulta, Nordstrom, Urban Outfitters, and Anthropologie. However, approximately 70% of the company’s sales still come from its own website. Read More

Notable mentions:
Calm, the number one app for meditation, mindfulness and sleep, has raised a further $27 million in funding to diversify its offering amid intense competition. “Our ambition is to build one of the most valuable and meaningful brands in the world,” said Co-Founder Alex Tew. “Calm is a business with a rare combination of factors: fast-growing, profitable and positive for the world.”

Mars acquired a majority stake in German functional food and beverage company Foodspring. “The depth of knowledge on consumer needs brought by Foodspring is a great asset and will help us to pioneer the emerging space of personalised nutrition,” explained Mars Edge president Jean-Christophe Flatin.

Plant-based chicken nugget startup Nuggs secures a $7 million investment led by industry giant McCain Foods. And kombucha company Health-Ade nabbed a $20 million equity investment from Coca-Cola’s Venturing & Emerging Brands division.

August: Non-Alcoholic Drinks + Personalised Nutrition

Seedlip: Undisclosed
In late summer, Diageo acquired a majority share in trendsetting non-alcoholic spirits brand Seedlip, as sales of non-alcoholic beer, wine and spirits hit a record high in the UK.

The drinks company, which previously owned 20% of Seedlip through its Distill Ventures division, which supports entrepreneurs as they develop and scale drinks brands, said it believed the startup is a game-changer, with significant growth potential.

In just over four years since founder Ben Branson set out to solve the dilemma of ‘what to drink when you’re not drinking’, Seedlip has grown from his kitchen to establishing a presence in more than 25 countries. The brand’s three variants are currently stocked in over 7,500 of the world’s best bars, restaurants, hotels and retailers, including the majority of the world’s 50 best cocktail bars and over 300 Michelin Star restaurants. According to the entrepreneur, whose ambition is to change the way the world drinks, the acquisition marks another big step forward to achieving this. Read More

Thriva’s £6 million Series A funding round, meanwhile, demonstrated the rapid growth of the home testing market, and consumer awareness of the potential of this burgeoning market is one area Thriva said it hoped to tackle with its new investment. 

“Most people are still not aware that companies like Thriva exist,” CEO Hamish Grierson commented. “That is something we want to change as we build towards a truly consumer-led future of health.”

The round featured a range of investors including Pembroke VCT and Guinness Asset Management and took its total raised to £7.5 million since its launch in 2016. Read More

Notable mentions:
Pivot, another smart at-home fitness concept raised $17 million to compete with the likes of Peloton, Mirror and Tonal.

Boston-based Biena Snacks secured $8 million in Series B financing to support the growth of its plant-based products, and activewear retailer Vuori received a $45 million growth equity investment from Norwest Venture Partners.

Wellness Industry's Biggest Investments of 2019
Image: Seedlip

September: Female Wellness + Plant-Based Food

In September Period-proof underwear brand Thinx secured a $25 million investment from personal care giant Kimberly-Clark, as it doubled down on efforts to break the mainstream market. 

Thinx CEO Maria Molland told the Wall Street Journal that getting the brand into big retailers will ensure consumers know it exists, which she said has been a major hurdle. She also revealed the capital would enable the startup to launch a more affordable line of underwear, to target a wider demographic. Read More

Strong Roots: $18.3M
For frozen plant-based food brand Strong Roots, an $18.3 million investment was earmarked to support US expansion. 

As plant-based food sales soar, rising by 11% in the past year alone, reaching a total market value of $4.5 billion, the four-year-old startup is one of a growing collective leveraging consumer demand. The startup is currently on track to generate $50 million worth of sales by the end of the year, the 4-year-old company expects its sales to hit $300 million by 2023. Read More

Notable mentions:
Lumen, a smart breathalyzer which gives users personalised diet recommendations, announced a new $8.5 million investment. 

Sexual wellness and ingestibles brand Love Wellness raised $4 million to engage the mainstream market, and US-based salad chain Sweetgreen closed a $150 million funding round which saw the company’s valuation reach $1.6 billion. 

October: Fitness Tech + Digital Wellness

Mirror: $34M
Having previously secured $38 million, with $25 million coming from Spark Capital, an investment firm that’s backed Twitter, Oculus and Lola, in October Mirror raised a further $34 million in a Series B round led by Point72 Ventures. Other participants included athleisure brand lululemon and supermodel Karlie Kloss.

In a candid conversation with Fast Company regarding the brand’s future strategy, founder Brynn Putnam explained: “We are building a best-in-class fitness product today, but that’s not where we will be in the near future. We’re building the third screen in your life that you’re going to turn to for all immersive interactive experiences going forward.” Read More

Parsley Health: $26M
Cutting-edge holistic health and wellness provider Parsley Health also secured $26 million to forge ahead with revolutionising healthcare in the US.

White Star Capital, the global multi-stage technology investment platform, led the Series B round with additional investments from funds including FirstMark Capital, Amplo, Alpha Edison, Trail Mix Ventures, Arkitekt Ventures, and Galaxy Digital. White Star Capital founder Eric Martineau-Fortin said. 

“Parsley Health’s unique model not only fosters a better, stronger relationship between health practitioners and patients, but addresses the strong demand for Functional Medical services and easier access with their organic tech integration, he commented.

“We continue to be impressed by its fast-growth in the US and its model that enables the company to generate multi-channel revenue from care memberships to e-commerce.” Read More

Notable mentions
British-born healthy beverage brand UGLY completed a multi-million dollar financing round to support global expansion, with a focus on the US and Europe. The investment, from Pentland Ventures, Steadman Partners (owned by Martin Dickie, the founder of BrewDog) and others, followed a period of rapid growth for the startup, which recently secured 5000 new stocking points in key retailers Sainsbury’s and Tesco, as well as surpassing sales of 5 million cans in the UK since launch.

US athleisure brand Varley raised $5 million to fuel growth via new product ranges and expansion into Asia. 

Wellness Industry's Biggest Investments of 2019

November: Femtech + Cannabis

Inne: $8.8M
German startup Inne secured €8.8 million ahead of its launch, as it gets ready to disrupt the rapidly growing femtech category.

The round, led by Blossom Capital, also featured participation from existing backer Monkfish Equity and angel investors Taavet Hinrikus, co-founder of TransferWise, Rolf Schromgens, co-founder of Trivago, and Tom Stafford, managing partner at global investment firm DS.

Inne has a winning combination of scientific validity plus usability that can enable women to better understand their bodies at all stages in their lives,” commented Louise Samet, partner at Blossom Capital. 

“What really impressed us is the team’s meticulous focus on design and ease-of-use together with the scientific validity and clear ambition to impact women all over the world.” Read More

Fitbit: $2.1B
Elsewhere, Fitbit shook the industry with news it had been acquired by Google for $2.1 billion

A pioneer in the wearables category, the business has sold more than 100 million devices and supports an engaged global community of millions of active users.

“Google is an ideal partner to advance our mission. With Google’s resources and global platform, Fitbit will be able to accelerate innovation in the wearables category, scale faster, and make health even more accessible to everyone. I could not be more excited for what lies ahead,” commented co-founder James park.

Notable mentions:
London-based healthy food delivery company The Detox Kitchen successfully raised £550 thousand via a crowdfunding campaign to support ambitious plans to meet the rise in consumer demand for convenient, nutritious food options.

Kikoko, a cannabis wellness brand for women, announced that it has closed an $8 million round of Series A funding led by Bengal Capital. FlowKana, Kikoko’s distributor and supply chain partner, also participated in the round, which brought Kikoko’s total funding to $14 million to date. The funding followed a breakout year for the brand.

December: Meat Alternatives + Better For You Snacks

Meatable: $10M
Cultivated meat start-up Meatable raised $10 million to accelerate the development of its first pork prototype.

The Dutch startup said its mission was “to become the leading choice for sustainably and efficiently produced meat”. Adding: “To achieve that mission, we will need to solve the cultivated meat industry’s scale-up challenge. We hope that the unveiling of our first prototype will show that we are making real strides toward fulfilling our mission.”

BFY Brands: Acquired for an undisclosed amount
PepsiCo announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire BFY Brands, a maker of ‘better-for-you’ snacks. 

“BFY Brands offers distinctive products that deliver the great taste and ingredients consumers are looking for,” said Steven Williams, CEO, PepsiCo Foods North America. “Their production capabilities will support the growth of our existing, more-nutritious snack brands.”

The company’s primary product, PopCorners, is a high growth, better-for-you popped corn snack with a strong track record in the club and grocery segments within the US and Canada and a presence in over 40 countries and territories worldwide.

Notable mentions:
Interactive fitness streaming platform iFit raised $200 million to accelerate its explosive growth in the connected fitness category. The startup’s streaming technology allows a multi-faceted interaction between the user, their iFit trainer and their smart machine. Its current base of 330,000 paid memberships is growing rapidly, revealed the brand which is now  “laser-focused on bringing its interactive fitness experience to as many consumers as possible, on as many products as possible, as fast as possible.”